“Open the door. This is Uxbridge Police. We have a warrant.”
Heart pounding in my temples, I roll the window down a few inches. Marcus isn’t moving or giving the smallest indication he’s going to stop this charade.
“What can I do for you officer? It’s quite unusual for you to be here alone. Where’s your backup?”
The patrolman glances about, but nobody pays us the any mind. Scuffling his feet on my driveway, the tall thin patrolman shut off his shoulder radio transmitter and leans towards the car.
“I’m looking for Officer Whitten. He went missing a few months back then quit the force over the phone and hasn’t been heard from since.”
I tilt my head to get a better view of the patrolman. Pale blue eyes, nervous and shifty scanning every which way but me. “Okay?”
“His credit card was used to order an item of E-bay. It was shipped to this address. A Darth Vader collectible.”
This is about that Darth Vader doll?
“Are you serious, officer? You’re here for the doll?”
His gaze finally finds mine, eyes hot with sudden anger. “I’m here for my friend. Is he here?”
I don’t know an Officer Whitten but, I do have the item in question, so I open the door. Slowly. I step from the car and lead the way towards the side entrance. The patrolman follows close behind me and Marcus at a casual distance, a toothpick lodged in the corner of his mouth. Putting my hand on the knob, I glace at the patrolman over my shoulder.
“Are you sure you don’t want to wait for back up?”
He shakes his head in the negative and I push the door open leading into the kitchen. The stench of stale beer, cigarettes, and marijuana force me to put a hand over my nose. There’s a body on the kitchen floor, a young man passed out in a pool of vomit. At the wooden kitchen table, a young woman sits naked on a chair reading a tablet and smoking a cigarette.
“Ella, who the fuck is this?”
“A cop, Ana. Don’t be rude. He came for the Darth Vader doll.”
“The fuck you say?”
“I’m here for my friend, Officer Whitten,” the patrolman cut it.
Sighing, I ask him to produce the warrant. Without a word he hands it to me.
“This warrant is for the doll.”
The young man balls his hands into fists and takes time before responding. “We know Officer Whitten’s credit card has been used several times traced to this address. He must…”
“Ella, give the officer the doll and he can be on his way,” Marcus says from the corner of the room, a cigarette replacing the toothpick in is mouth.
The cop faces Marcus, body tense with his hand resting on his firearm. “This isn’t your business mister, please remain quiet.”
Marcus puts a finger to his lips and slowly shows the officer his FBI credentials. “You’re in over your head. Take the doll. Give it to your boss. Tell him you didn’t find anything else. Do you understand?”
The cop swallows and nods.
“Just give him the doll? Fine. I don’t give a shit.”
I lead the way down a short hallway to the spare bedroom, stepping over beer bottles and cigarette butts to reach the door. Giving it a shove with my shoulder, I step into the room ahead of the patrolmen.
The bedroom is empty save for a lone bookcase against the far wall. A ceiling fan spins at low speed, a thumping sound punctuating each rotation. Tied to one of the fan blades is a rope fashioned like a makeshift noose. A toy plush Darth Vader doll is tied to the rope and swings round in endless circles.
“Take the doll. There’s nothing else for you here.”
The patrolman ignores the doll and approaches the bookshelf. The only object on the shelves is a golden urn. Turning to me, a look of confusion on his face, the cop attempts to speak.
“Is this Officer Whitten?” He manages to ask in a low voice.
What? I burst into laughter. Removing the doll from the noose, I join the patrolman at the bookshelf before the urn.
“Don’t be so dramatic. You think I have an incinerator in the basement?”
Marcus laughs and lights the cigarette.
“The ashes are my father. I’m surprised you didn’t know. It’s in my file.”
The patrolman doesn’t understand and I’m not sure if I’m surprised, he doesn’t know or just so sick of this small-town life that I can’t be surprised anymore by the complete incompetence of the local police.
“My condolences,” the patrolman says.
Marcus lets out a low whistle and appears at my side. “That will be quite enough. The patrolman was just leaving.”
The patrolman takes the doll from me and starts backing up towards the door. Does he think I’m going to kill him?
Suddenly bells began to toll, the sound rattling the house. Gong. The bells sound like some evil twisted church where the organist is on acid and screaming in foreign languages.
The naked woman reading the tablet stands, putting her device on the kitchen counter. Pulling a button-down shirt over her shoulders, she walks to Ella’s side.
“It’s time for the trial. Are you coming?”
The patrolman clutches at the doll, fingers white with exertion. “A trial?”
His voice cracks and his backward progress is stopped by the door.
“The trial of Officer Whitten. You can be in the front row.”
The bells ring and ring and the patrolman lets out a scream as the lights go out.
THE SEARCH FOR DARTH VADER - PART TWO NEXT SUNDAY NIGHT 8PM EST